Setting and Maintaining Boundaries

Boundaries are a part of healthy, thriving relationships. I believe the best relationships include self-awareness, empathy, and communication when boundaries are considered.

To create a boundary, we first must be in tune with our needs. What are our values, beliefs, and priorities? We must check in with that. This is where self-awareness comes in. For example, let’s say someone (we will call her Kelly) has a party at her home at 5pm, but it is important to her that it ends at a reasonable time because a sleep schedule is high on the priority list, as Kelly has an infant. If this is an important priority for Kelly at the time, as sleep is valuable to her, she would be wise to honor her priority.

Next, we should still consider the other people involved. This does not mean that we just cater to the needs of others. It means that we still want to hold empathy and avoid selfishness. Using the previous example, Kelly might consider that she does not want to abruptly kick her friends out or be rude to them in any way. She wants to offer kindness to her friends and consider their feelings. Notice, I said consider, not cater.

Last, we must communicate. How will anyone know we have a boundary if we do not let them know? Some of us are lucky enough to have intuitive friends that can tell what we are feeling, but not everyone is that way. Kelly may not have friends with kids. Maybe her friends do not understand the sleep struggles at the infant stage. It is Kelly’s responsibility to communicate her needs to them. This does not mean she starts yawning, hoping they pick up on her tiredness. It means she says what she means.

If these three things are all done, then you have likely done your part to set an appropriate boundary.

This is a somewhat surface, basic example. Many people must set boundaries in much more difficult situations, but these three considerations (self-awareness, empathy, and communication) can generally be used. Maybe some one close to you is doing something hurtful. Is the treatment something that does not line up with your values in a relationship? How do you think the person might be feeling? How can you respectfully address the person?  

The next thing to think about is what happens after the boundary has been considered and communicated.

What happens if the other person does not understand?

It is not up to us to make them understand. It is up to us to set the boundary appropriately. We can explain it for people, but we cannot understand for people. That is not our responsibility.

If some one is upset with us for making a boundary, that is okay.

If some one does not understand and does not respect our boundary, we may have to communicate it again, but if that continues, eventually the relationship will likely be negatively impacted. This does not mean that we turn around, throw away our boundary, and appease the other person. If we have considered our values and set a reasonable boundary, we must hang onto the self-respect that we are entitled to have.

Published by madewellminded

I am a mental health therapist in training. I am on my way to finishing my master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. I am also a creative nonfiction writer and a poet with a bachelor's degree in English writing. I am an advocate for mental health. I am deeply passionate about making a difference in the stigma attached to mental health through knowledge, awareness, and creative writing. I want to share my own story, as well as the stories of others who have persevered through great adversity. I am also a wife to an amazing husband, a mother of two beautiful babies, and a Christian who wants to show love, kindness, and acceptance to everyone I meet.

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